Everything We Need to Know About Trump We Learned in 2016

As Maya Angelou might say, “When a candidate tells you who they are the first time, believe them.”

I don’t know about you, but between the ravages of a pandemic and Trump’s embrace of fascist policies, I’m having trouble sleeping these days for fear of how much worse things could get over the next three to six months. As David Shipler wrote, we should all “beware of a cornered Trump” because “the closer defeat looms, the more deranged his administration will become.”

On a more rational level, however, none of this should surprise us. The benefit of 20/20 hindsight tells us that we knew all we needed to know about Donald Trump before he was elected (via the Electoral College). While not an exhaustive list, here are some examples.

Trump is a racist.

There was a lot of evidence pointing to this one. But suffice it to say that Trump launched himself onto the national political stage by claiming that this country’s first African American president wasn’t a citizen.

Trump is a serial sexual abuser.

Frankly, I’ve lost count of how many women accused Trump of sexual assault prior to the election. But in addition to his crude machinations on Howard Stern’s radio show, we all heard the tape of him bragging about being able to “grab p*ssy.” Nuff said.

Trump is a xenophobe.

Trump launched his presidential campaign by saying that Mexican immigrants are “drug dealers, criminals, and rapists.” During the campaign, he talked about instituting a Muslim ban on entry into the United States.

Trump welcomes foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Even after we all knew that Russia handed their hacked emails over the Wikileaks in order to make them public, Trump praised the organization over 141 times on the campaign trail.

Trump consistently abuses people who work for him. 

During the 2016 Republican primary, USA Today published a thorough report on the fact that over three decades, Trump was involved in over 4,095 lawsuits. Most of them involved his habit of stiffing contractors he hired to work on his properties.

Trump has no concept of justice.

Before the Central Park Five had ever stepped foot in a courtroom, Trump placed full-page ads calling for their execution in several newspapers. They were eventually exonerated, but during the 2016 campaign, Trump refused to acknowledge their innocence or apologize for his rush to condemn them with zero evidence.

Trump is an ignorant narcissist.

In July 2016, Jane Mayer published a mea culpa from Trump’s ghostwriter Tony Schwartz.

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said…

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

Trump is a bully.

Anyone who doesn’t demonstrate total loyalty to Trump is viewed as an enemy and attacked mercilessly. There were numerous examples of this on the campaign trail, but most prominent were his attacks on Senator John McCain, a Muslim Gold Star family, and a disabled reporter.

Trump is a serial liar.

During just one debate with Hillary Clinton, David Leonardt documented that Trump told 26 lies. Here is how Glenn Kessler summarized some of the biggest whoppers Trump told during the campaign.

Trump repeatedly made claims that boggled the imagination. He said the unemployment rate was 42 percent when it was actually 5 percent. He claimed there were 92 million “jobless Americans,” which included everyone who did not want to work, such as retirees and students. He even claimed that he could save $300 billion a year from a Medicare prescription drug program that only costs $78 billion.

Trump incites violence against protesters.

This video captures what Trump said at campaign rallies better than any verbal description.

I’m sure there are more things we learned about Trump during the 2016 campaign, but the point I want to make is that anyone who actually paid attention shouldn’t be shocked by what we are witnessing these days from the president. What is shocking is that 63 million Americans voted for him anyway.

It now looks like we’re stuck with Trump for another six months no matter what he does because our founders only gave us three options for how to get rid of a president.

  1. Impeachment in the House followed by a trial in the Senate,
  2. The 25th amendment, whereby a president can be removed from office by his Cabinet and Congress because he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” and
  3. An election every four years.

Because Trump’s enablers in Congress and the Cabinet have been unwilling to exercise their authority in the first and second option, it will be up to voters to do so in November. The one thing we should all take from this nightmare is to let it be a resounding affirmation of the fact that elections matter. And as Maya Angelou might say, “When a candidate tells you who they are the first time, believe them.”

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.